Win 8 security bundle an antitrust magnet

Microsoft could face lawsuits by prepackaging Windows Defender security suite with its latest operating system as users might be less inclined to buy third-party antivirus software, lawyers say.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

Microsoft could be saddled with antitrust lawsuits for bundling its Windows Defender security suite with the upcoming Windows 8 operating system (OS), as such an act may be considered an abuse of a dominant position within the industry, lawyers said.

Bryan Tan, director of Keystone Law Corporation, for one, said that there is a chance that bundling the security suite with the OS may be considered an "abuse of a dominant position" as this restricts competition since every user of Windows 8 will already have a preinstalled security feature.

Thus, if users want to use any third-party security software, they will have to take additional steps to buy and install the software and the impetus to do so may be lessened should the system come with a prepackaged security suite, he explained.

Another lawyer, Melvin Pang, agreed that what Microsoft is planning to do is a classic example of anti-competitive practice. The legal associate at Singapore-based Amica Law pointed out that competition law exists here and the product bundling may potentially breach the law.

Elaborating, he cited section 47 of Singapore's Competition Act that prohibits any conduct which is an abuse of a dominant position in any market in the country. A three-part test is then applied to determine if the law has been infringed. These include determining the relevant market, whether the company has a dominant position in the relevant market, and whether it has abused that dominant position, he stated.

Redmond announced last September that it would be beefing up its Windows Defender tool, which comes preinstalled in the past few iterations of the operating system. The new suite would include some of the more robust features from its separate Security Essentials product to be more resistant against malware and viruses, according to a report by ZDNet Asia's sister site, CNET.

Microsoft did not respond to ZDNet Asia's questions.

Alternative bundling options
Pang, however, suggested that should the Windows Defender software be bundled with Internet Explorer instead, there is a stronger chance for Microsoft to fend off antitrust lawsuits.

He noted that tying the security suite with its browser, Redmond can argue that it is just practicing "efficient bundling" as it forms an effective, integrated product that consumers want. He added that the browser market is more competitive, with Mozilla Foundation's Firefox and Google's Chrome browsers strong alternatives in the space.

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